Six key tips for setting up an outdoor workspace

As flexible work arrangements become more common, many Australian offices are increasingly designed to allow a natural flow between 'working', 'meeting' and 'social' spaces. These same trends are influencing workspaces at home, including outdoor spaces.

Moving the home office outdoors

Formerly the domain of barbecues, cricket and other leisurely pursuits, Australia’s suburban back gardens are being reconfigured to accommodate the millions of us who sometimes work from home. 

Outdoor workspaces provide a healthy change of pace; numerous studies have shown that getting closer to nature can improve our sense of wellbeing. Here at Work Wise, we recently reported on the multiple benefits of green-desking. Now two professionals who have created outdoor workspaces walk us through the practicalities. 

Sharon Melamed, Managing Director of B2B match service Matchboard in Bondi Junction argues the benefits of setting up an outdoor home office far outweigh any inconvenience. "I run two online businesses. When I'm not on the road meeting clients I work from a combination of outdoors (my garden office) and indoors (my home office). I have a super-hectic schedule and feel rejuvenated and more relaxed working in the fresh air."

Another advocate is Dr Bryan West, founder and Managing Director of Fortress Learning, an online study platform based out of Toowoomba. He is based in a new home office that intentionally incorporates indoor and outdoor spaces. "My general level of concentration and wellbeing has increased dramatically in just a few short weeks. Apart from working better, I expect I am a more pleasant manager for my staff," he says.

Optimising the outdoor workspace: practically speaking, here’s how they do it.

1. Keep devices on a solid clean surface

It’s true, technology has untethered us from our desks but that doesn’t mean your venture into the outdoors needs to forsake office creature comforts like a good work surface.

2. Choose furniture that’s adjustable and mobile

An outdoor workspace isn’t likely to work over the long term if it involves taking furniture from your home office and lugging it outside. Instead, it needs to suit a range of purposes. “That might mean, firstly, a good, mobile desk,” says Melamed. Her desk of choice rests on castor wheels, meaning she can easily move it inside or out.

West crafted his own desk with adjustable monitor arms, enabling him to adjust angle to avoid light glare. Instead of remaining in a single area or posture, both West and Melamed argue that the outdoor office fosters healthy movement and motion. According to Melamed, this continual change of scene fosters creativity.

3. Minimise paper and other small objects

Decluttering was never more important than outside the confines of four walls. Your workspace needs to accommodate a light breeze without key documents fluttering into the neighbour’s yard.

4. Incorporate shaded areas

Your computer was never designed to co-exist with temperature extremes and glare. Whether you’re building your outdoor workspace bespoke or creating it within an existing space, your foray into outdoor work may be short-lived unless you incorporate some shade. This might mean setting up on a verandah or patio or favouring spots with ample tree cover.

5. Maximise your WI-FI

There’s nothing more frustrating than a wireless dead zone. Everything about the success of your outdoor – or indoor – workspace comes down to the strength of your wi-fi. Next to making sure your hardware is up to date, there are a couple of ways you can squeeze more coverage from your home network. To strengthen the wi-fi signal, keep your router elevated and keep it away from other appliances that might interrupt the signal like cordless phones and microwaves. Failing that, you can always pick up a wi-fi range extender.

6. Find reliable power

Unless you have an extension cord, the battery life of most mobile devices won’t get you far. As a back-up, “have a power bank handy to offer a last-resort power supply no matter where you are," Melamed says.